With the amount of speaking roles, let alone saber-wielding roles, there is in the six “Star Wars” movies in its existence, it’s understandable that a huge number of actors have walked into the Lucasfilm casting office – only to be turned away. What you might be surprised to learn is that quite a few of the rejected have actually gone on to become stoutly appealing names in the industry.
Here are ten actors who near got to visit that Galaxy Far, Far Away….
Glynn Turman – Han Solo (“Star Wars : A New Hope”)
At first, George Lucas planned the character of Han Solo to be a huge green-skinned monster with no nose and gills. He fortunately soon changed his mind and made the character a man – an African-American. Actor Glynn Turman, best known as Mayor Clarence V. Royce on TV’s “The Wire”, was Lucas’s pick over Billy Dee Williams to the part. As it turned out, Williams would be the one who had the last laugh – been hired to play Lando Calrissian in the series, while Turman was tossed out in favour of local carpenter and white-guy Harrison Ford.
Turman recalled, “That was in George Lucas’ book. Apparently George Lucas had me in mind for the role, and then thought that there might be too much controversy between a white Princess Leia and a black Han Solo – because those were the times – and he didn’t want to get into that. At the time, I had no idea. I just went to the audition, did it and got out of there.”
William Katt – Luke Skywalker (“Star Wars : A New Hope”)
Katt, from Brian De Palma’s “Carrie”, auditioned for the part of the cream-suited Farm boy. At one stage, Katt’s “Carrie” co-star Sissy Spacek was being considered to play Leia. As it turned out, Katt and many other blonde-haired boys at the time – including future ‘Freddy Krueger’ Robert Englund – were passed over in favour of newcomer Mark Hamill.
Said Katt, “[De Palma] and George Lucas conducted auditions at the same time, so originally the auditions were for Tommy Ross in Carrie, but they were also auditioning for Luke Skywalker in Star Wars. I auditioned with Kurt Russell, he was going for Han Solo, and I was luckily enough to get the Carrie role.”
Cindy Williams – Princess Leia (“Star Wars : A New Hope”)
“Laverne & Shirley” star Cindy Williams was ‘this close’ to wearing the brown buns… until Debbie Reynolds’ daughter walked into the casting office, astonishing Lucas and his peeps with her terrific turn as the intergalactic princess.
Carrie Fisher had also bet Berlin singer Teri Nunn, Melanie Griffith (who was indecisive, and couldn’t decide whether it was for her or not) and Teri Lynn to the part.
Jim Henson – Yoda (“Star Wars : The Empire Strikes Back”)
‘Muppet’ man Henson was the first to be asked to provide the voice of veteran Jedi Yoda, the wisest midget in Dagobah, but Henson – either because of his many Television commitments, or because he thought someone else could do a better job – instead passed the job onto his friend and colleague Frank Oz, his co-star on “The Muppet Show”.
Michael Angarano – Anakin Skywalker (“Star Wars : The Phantom Menace”)
Before deciding on Jake Lloyd (“Jingle All The Way”), George Lucas seriously considered “For Richer or Poorer” star Michael Angarano for the role of young Anakin Skywalker. Angarano lost the part, but would play the ‘younger’ version of another character in a major movie – young William in 2000’s “Almost Famous”.
Angarano has since gone on to star in such films as “Seabiscuit”, “Red State” and “Haywire” – with Ewan ‘Obi-Wan’ McGregor.
Kenneth Branagh – Obi-Wan Kenobi (“Star Wars : The Phantom Menace”)
Likely age cost him the role (Ewan McGregor was a bit younger), but George Lucas’s initial idea to cast British thesp Kenneth Branagh (“Much Ado About Nothing”, “Peter’s Friends”) as the young Obi-Wan wasn’t a bad idea.
Having said that, Branagh might still make a fitting addition to the ‘Star Wars’ world (“Thor” fans might agree); if we were to get a glimpse of the “Star Wars : Episode VII” director wish-list might we see Branagh’s name on it? It wouldn’t at all surprise me if so.
Benicio Del Toro – Darth Maul (“Star Wars : The Phantom Menace”)
Screen gangster Benicio Del Toro, then a hot commodity thanks to his role in “The Usual Suspects”, was originally hired to portray the devilish sith, Darth Maul. When George Lucas decided to cut most of Maul’s lines from the film, Del Toro walked. Stuntman Ray Park took over the part.
As it turned out, Park scored his most famous role – and likely made a pretty penny – out of playing the mostly-mute Darth Maul, a character that – though killed off in ‘The Phantom Menace’ – went on to become easily the most popular character in the entire prequel trilogy.
Sybill Danning – Sexy Witch (“Star Wars : The Phantom Menace”)
B-movie Queen Danning was originally offered the role of a Sexy Witch who seduces Anakin to the dark side (as it turned out, no ‘sexy witch’ seduced the youngster to the dark side. Anakin didn’t swap teams until the third film in the prequel trilogy) but Lucas dropped the idea.
To see just how sexy Ms Danning is – and how effortlessly she would’ve coaxed young Anakin over to the dark side – you can check out such films as “Battle Beyond the Stars”, “Howling II : Your Sister is a Werewolf”, “God’s Gun” and “Grindhouse”, in which she appears in one of the faux trailers between the two flicks – ”Werewolf Women of the SS”. She next appears in a vampire film called “The Last Revenants”.
Colin Hanks – Anakin Skywalker (“Star Wars : Attack of the Clones”)
The main reason Hanks (or Paul Walker, Jonathan Brandis or Ryan Phillippe) didn’t get the part was because Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman were said to have the best chemistry in the screen tests.
Hanks, one of the most amiable guys in the business, has said he’d have loved to have been part of any of the “Star Wars” films. But ya know son, “Orange County” ain’t too shabby a consolation prize.